Council Commentary

Population Council’s GIRL Center Launches Roadmap to 2030: A Path for Evidence-Based Action to Transform Adolescent Lives

Building on the success of the past five years, the Girl Research, Innovation, and Learning (GIRL) Center at the Population Council celebrates its anniversary by launching a new Roadmap to 2030, the Center’s strategy to guide its work together with global partners in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The GIRL Center is a thought leader that generates innovative research and tools to transform the lives of adolescents, especially girls. The GIRL Center convenes policy makers, practitioners, advocates, researchers, donors, and business leaders to accelerate global progress by making impactful change guided by data and evidence. 

Today’s rising generation of 1.3 billion adolescents are tomorrow’s future. Yet, adolescent girls fare worse than boys in many facets, including education and experiences with violence. Furthermore, the implications of key experiences for girls in adolescence—school dropout, early marriage, motherhood, sexual and gender-based violence—are irreversible.  

Led by Dr. Karen Austrian, the GIRL Center will continue to leverage its unique value and strength as a global hub of interdisciplinary experts bridging research, programming, and policy to drive evidence-based action and investment for adolescents, who are at the nexus of the world’s critical issues—COVID-19, conflicts, the climate crisis, and more. 

“There is tremendous power in investing in adolescence, which is a crucial building block for the futures of girls and boys,” said Austrian, Director of the GIRL Center. “Short-term investments protect adolescents and help them transition to healthy adulthood. The longer-term benefits for women, children, and communities over generations are critical for their futures.”  

The GIRL Center Roadmap outlines its strategy to generate and communicate evidence, convene experts, and nurture talent. Undertaking a girl-centered, evidence-driven, intersectional, and innovative approach that is grounded in low- and middle-income countries, the GIRL Center will focus on: 

  • Intergenerational poverty and gender inequity 
  • Adolescents and the digital space 
  • Adolescents in humanitarian settings 
  • Adolescent sexual and reproductive health 
  • Adolescent economic empowerment 
  • Adolescents and climate 

These areas of focus aim to advance the GIRL Center’s vision of a gender-equitable world where girls and boys make a healthy and safe transition into adulthood and reach their full potential.

“The GIRL Center is the driving force behind the Population Council’s commitment to empower adolescents and young people to thrive,” said Dr. Thoai Ngo, Vice President of Social and Behavioral Science Research at the Population Council and founder of the GIRL Center. “The new Roadmap marks a revitalized growth and leadership of the Center through its innovative and interdisciplinary work. We’re going to need that kind of collaboration in order to solve the intertwined challenges of the climate crisis, massive inequality, and widespread poverty that are faced by this rising generation.”  

Continuing to strengthen successful partnerships will be central to achieving the Center’s vision set out in the Roadmap. "We at Echidna Giving have greatly valued our collaboration with the GIRL Center,” said Erin Ganju, Managing Director of Echidna Giving. "Our partnership on the Evidence for Gender and Education Resource (EGER) represents a global effort to document and share the latest evidence and ongoing work in gender and education. It is now a go-to resource for the education sector and it has transformed the way we invest in gender equality in and through education as a private funder."  

“It has been an honor to lead the GIRL Center over the past year and to be working with brilliant colleagues across the globe to think through what we can offer for the world's future leaders and change agents,” said Dr. Karen Austrian. I am excited for the GIRL Center to continue to grow and strengthen as the go-to hub for data, evidence, and solutions for adolescents, particularly girls, so that we can together build a more just and equitable society.”  

Follow the GIRL Center and subscribe to the quarterly newsletter for the latest news and research.